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University of Michigan 

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By Hon. J. L. M. CURRY, LL.D. 

Communicated to the Massachusetts Histokicai. Society. 

SBft$ an Inttotmction, 


j SBntbeTsftfi 9veM, 

i 1890. 

ntrod vGoO^lc 

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At a stated meeting of the ^Iassaichjjsetts His- 
torical Society:, October 10, 1889, after other pro- 
ceedings, the President, Dr. George. E. Ellis, said that 
the Society was looking forward to its One Hundredth 
Anniversary, and that there was a gentleman present 
whose membership covered precisely half of the hun- 
dred years. 

The Hon. Robert C. Winthrgp then said : — 

If I had followed my impulses, Mr. President, instead of 
yielding to my discretion, I should have risen at once, after 
you had finished your introductory remarks, and should not 
have waited for you to call on me now. 1 could have added 
little, indeed, to your tribute to our deceased associate Mr. 
Amory; but I would gladly have united in doing honor to 
the memory of President Vpoolsey, — one of the most accom- 
plished and valuable men whose names have adorned our roll, 
— and of Dr. Samuel Austin Allibone, whose " Dictionary of 
Authors " may be counted among the herculean labors of mod- 
ern bibliographical literature. Meanwhile you have kiudly 
alluded to me as one whose membership of this Society covers 
a full half of the hundred years of its existence, so soon to be 
completed and celebrated. It is true. Sir, that I was elected 
in the month of October, 1839, and that this may therefore 
be regarded as the fiftieth anniversary of my admission to this 
oldest Historical Society in our land. I need not add {that 
there is no one left, except myself, of the Resident Members 
of that day, as I have been so often designated as " the vener- 
able Senior Member" ever since the death of Mr. Savage, 
fifteen or sixteen years ago. Our distinguished historian Ban- 
croft was, indeed, one of our Resident Members when I was 
chosen, but his removal from the State not long afterwards 
compelled us to transfer his name to our Honorary roll. He 
is still, however, the oldest member of the Society; and all 

ntrod vGoO^lc 

our best wishes will, I am sure, have gone out to him on his 
recent eighty-ninth birthday. 

It was a goodly company, Mr. President, into which I 
was admitted in 1839, and one with which any man might 
have been proud to be associated. We had not with us 
then, it is true, some of the famous poets with whom we 
have taken sweet counsel in later years, nor some of our 
most brilliant historians. Longfellow and Emerson and 
Holmes and Lowell and Motley and Parkman were associ- 
ates of a much more recent date. But our Society then in- 
cluded, among its sixty members, venerable and venerated 
clergymen, like Dr. William Jenks, Dr. John Pierce, Dr. 
Charles Lowell, Dr. Convers Francis, and Dr. Alexander 
Youug; illustrious statesmen, like John Quincy Adams, 
Josiah Quiney, and Daniel Webster ; learned judges and 
counsellors, like John Davis, Daniel A. White, Lev ere tt 
Saltonstall, Lemuel Shaw, and Rufus Choate; while of 
authors and orators it had George Ticknor, Jared Sparks, 
William H. Prescott, Francis 0. Gray, John G. Palfrey, 
and Edward Everett. I must not omit Nathan Appleton, 
the eminent merchant and financier, and good Isaac P. 
Davis, one of the most obliging and useful members we 
have ever had. Nor can I fail to name my own honored 
father, who was then our President ; and James Savage, our 
great antiquarian, who soon succeeded him in the chair. 

I may be pardoned for remembering that I was then only 
thirty years of age ; but I had 'been a member of the Legis- 
lature of Massachusetts for four or five years, and Speaker 
of the House for one of them; and that may, perhaps, ac- 
count for my early admission to this Society. Not long af- 
terwards, however, — in December of the same year, 1839, — 
I did ray best to justify my election by delivering a long and 
elaborate address before the New England Society of New 
York, on the Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers. It was my 
first historical oration, or^ indeed, oration of any kind ; and I 
recall with no little pride the generous praise which it elicited 
from our former president, Judge Davis, — himself pre-emi- 
nently the umpire of all that related to Plymouth or Pilgrim 
history. To him I had ventured to send the proof-sheeta for 
his corrections and criticism, and his appreciative and com- 
plimentary letter is among my most precious autographs of 
that far-away period. 

:<,*.-«! vGoO^lc 

But I have not corae here this afternoon to say anything 
about myself or to' make any communication of my own. I 
hold in my hand a valuable communication from one of our 
Corresponding Members, to which I will make a brief ex- 
planatory preamble. 

It happened that when my friend, the Hon. J. L. M. Curry, 
of Virginia, resigned his position as general agent of the Pea- 
body Education Trustees, — a position to which, I rejoice to 
say, he has recently returned, — and when he was about 
embarking for Europe as United States Minister at Madrid, 
I reminded him that two of ray relatives had been Ministers 
to Spain in years long past. One of them was my great- 
uncle, James Bowdoin, the son of Governor Bowdoin of 
Revolutionary and Shays' Rebellion times. The other was 
George William Erving, his cousin, of a somewhat later period. 
I ventured to request him, if he found anything in the archives 
of the Legation at Madrid which would throw light on the 
services of either of these relatives, that he would kindly 
make it known to me. In conformity with this request, Dr. 
Curry has prepared a memorandum or memoir of the diplo- 
matic services of George William Erving, containing the re- 
sults of an investigation of the archives of the Legation in 
Madrid, and he placed it in my hands at the meeting of the 
Peabody Trustees from which I have just returned, saying 
that it would give him pleasure if I should see fit to present 
it to this Society, with his respects, as one of our Correspond- 
ing Members. 

I am the more willing and glad to do this, as Mr. Erving 
was himself also a Corresponding Member, having been 
elected on the 31st of October, 1822, and was the giver to 
our Cabinet — where it still is — of a fine set of the French 
- medals of Washington and Columbus and Franklin and oth- 
ers, in a case inscribed with his name, which was long the only 
set of those medals in our possession. He was a man, too, 
of great accomplishments and of no little historical research. 
He was educated at Oriel College in the University of Oxford. 
His essay on the Basque Language was much prized by phi- 
lologists half a century ago ; and his account of the little 
Republic of San Marino, in a New York Review long since 
discontinued, attracted much notice at the time. He was a 
friend of the Hon. John Pickering, of George Ticknor, and 
of others of our best-known literary men. 

ntrod vGoO^lc 

His name as Minister to Spain has often been confounded 
with that of Washington Irving, who succeeded him after 
many years at the Court of Madrid ; and I have more than 
once found it misspelled, in the published documents of Con- 
gress and the State Department. 1 James Madison had a 
marble bust of my kinsman in his library at Montpelier, Va., 
where I had the good fortune to visit him in 1832 ; and the 
bust is now in my own possession. Mr. Madison then told 
me that he never had a more capable and faithful minister 
in his service, during his sixteen years' term as Secretary of 
State and as President of the United States, than George 
William Erving. 

Mr. Erving was not so fortunate in winning the confidence 
and regard of John Quincy Adams, with whom he had a 
controversy during the period of the annexation of Texas, 
and who spoke somewhat harshly of him in his Diary. It 
chanced that during this annexation period a letter which 
Mr. Erving had written to General Jackson many years be- 
fore, and which had been marked " private," found its way 
into print, through the agency of some unscrupulous mis- 
chief-maker, and greatly to Mr. Erving's surprise and chagrin. 
As it referred to some words or acts of Mr. Adams in any- 
thing but an approving tone, I was requested by Erving to . 
explain to Mr, Adams, with whom I was then in Congress, 
that the letter was an off-hand effusion, written in the midst 
of party controversies, and altogether private, and that it had 
now been surreptitiously published to his great regret. The 
message was kindly received by Mr. Adams, and I had hoped 
that there was an end of the matter. But Mr. Adams did 
not forget or forgive the letter, as was perhaps not to have 
been too confidently expected. 

Many months afterward, — it seems but yesterday, though 
it must be much more than forty years ago, — Mr. Adams 
most kindly called on me, spon after breakfast, at my house 
in Summer Street. He was on his way to the ordination or 
induction of some Unitarian clergyman, whose name I have 
forgotten, not far from Boston. I remember his telling me 
that he never failed to attend such occasions, whenever he 
was invited, and mentioned, among other things, that he be- 

1 Washington Irving is stated to have descended from the same Scotch 
family, whose name was spelled in ancient deeds and parchments in a variety 
of ways, hut is now generally written Irvine. , 


lieved he had a pew in every church of every denomination 
in Washington. As a matter of fact, however, he almost 
always attended services on Sunday at the Capitol, par- 
ticularly while the Rev. Mr. Cookman — a Methodist preacher 
of remarkable power and eloquence, whom he greatly ad- 
mired, as all of us did — was chaplain of Congress. 

But he then proceeded to tell me that he was to deliver a 
lecture that very evening, before the Young Men's Mercan- 
tile Library Association, on the proposed annexation of Texas, 
and that he should have occasion to allude to the letter of 
Mr. Erving, in regard to which I had made all explanation 
some time previously. He said that he desired to tell me 
this in advance, as I was a relative and friend of Mr. Erving ; 
and lest I should be deterred from coming to hear the lecture 
he wished to assure me that he should spare Erving from any 
severe strictures. " I shall spare him on your account," said 
he ; "and I hope you will come and hear me." I thanked him 
heartily for his kind consideration, and went to hear the 
lecture accordingly. 

But such a sparing I had never dreamed of. In the heat 
of delivery Mr. Adams poured out an invective upon my 
poor kinsman of the most intense character, and I made up 
my mind that nothing could ever be more formidable than 
to be spared by Mr. Adams. But the " old man eloquent " — 
I had almost said the dear old man, and he was dear to us 
all — fully believed that he had dealt leniently and tenderly 
with Mr. Erving on my account; and I doubt not that he 
might have said a great deal sharper and severer things, if I 
had not been present. At all events, there was nothing but 
kindness and cordiality between us to the end of his life ; 
and I recall much that was most amiable and even affectionate 
in his intercourse with me at Washington. Nothing could 
ever tempt me to say a disrespectful or disparaging word of 
one for whom I cherished so much regard and veneration, 
and whose friendship I count among the most valued privi- 
leges of my life. 

In the course of my subsequent correspondence with Mr. 
Erving, while he was still in Europe, I begged him to give 
me some account of his family and of himself ; and not long 
afterwards I received a letter from him, full of interesting 
details of the Boston Ervings of the olden time, more than 
one of whom was appointed a Mandamus Councillor, and 

:<,*.-«! vGoO^lc 

several of whom were refugees after the British army was 
driven out of our harbor by Washington. It also contains not 
a few striking allusions to his own early career as an Ameri- 
can Democrat. I will not attempt to read any part of it on 
this occasion; but if the Publishing Committee shall accept 
Dr. Curry's communication and give it a place in one of the 
volumes of our Proceedings, as I trust they will do, I will 
append the Erving letter to these remarks as a preamble. 

Written in his old age, in a foreign land, and out of all 
reach of his family papers, it may be wanting, as he himself 
suggests, in exactness of detail and historical accuracy; but his 
vivid description of the flight of the Refugees from Boston, in 
1776, is full of interest. 

Mr. Erving died at New York, on the 22d of July, 1850, 
having completed the eighty-first year of his age on the 15th 
of the same month. 1 He had lived long abroad, and was 
under the impression that holographs, or wills written by 
the testator's own hand, were everywhere valid. He left 
duplicates of such a will, carefully drafted and deposited in 
safe places. But the want of witnesses to his signature was 
fatal, and his property was distributed according to laws 
governing the estates of intestates. A much larger portion of 
it would otherwise have gone to the late Col. John Erving, 
of the United States Army, and to his son, John (Langdon- 
Elwyn) Erving, of New York. 

Lettek of Hon. George W. Erving. 

Hon. Robert C. Winthrof, M.C., Paris, Aug. 30, 18*?. 


My dear Sir, — I wrote to yon on the 25th inst., and now, pur- 
suant to my promise, take up the matter referred to on closing that 
letter. My notes, however, will not be very precise in dates, for I 
have not any documents to assist my frail memory. All my family 
papers which were not lost, with a mass of public records and official 
correspondences and various valuable effects, in the great lire of New 
York some six years ago, are now locked up at Washington ; amongst 
them my grandfather's ledgers and letters, and his more interesting 
early correspondence with his relations in Scotland. 

My grandfather (your great-great-grandfather), John Erving, was 
born at Kirkwall (in the Orkneys) in the year 1690. He came to 

ntrod vGoO^lc 

Boston at about the age of sixteen, say in the year 1706, a poor sailor- 
boy. In the usual course he rose from the condition of sailor to be 
captain when yet young; then quitted the profession, and established 
himself as ship-owner and merchant- He was a man of powerful intel- 
lect, of singular sagacity and strict probity. These qualities, added to 
the experience gained in various voyages, produced uniform success in 
his commercial operations, and he died at the age of ninety-seven, the 
most wealthy merchant of his time in New England. 

The Scotch, even of the Lowlands, are especially accurate in, and 
careful of, their genealogical records ; the Highlanders and the natives 
of the northern isles still more so. They are the more tenacious of 
such family honors in proportion as their blood has been less mixed 
with the Saxon; and the more northern clans can boast that no con- 
queror, from the Roman downward, has ever placed his foot on their 
soil. Thus, though the populations of the Orkneys can be considered 
but as communities of poor fishermen, yet they are more proud of their 
pure lineage than are princes of the south ; and, generally speaking, 
pride of descent will always be in proportion to the degree of poverty 
in societies, for it is a compensation. Where the distinctions of wealth 
and high intellectual cultivation do not exist, there family distinction is 
all-important. When our grandfather grew to manhood and became a 
merchant this ancestral pride was roused into action, and he forthwith 
procured from Scotland, and in regularly authentic form of the heralds, 
his genealogical record and the blazon of his family arms. It appears 
that the original family name was " Ervin Wynn," which is explained 
(according to my best recollection) to mean "strongman of the West." 

The " clans " Bonshaw and Drom now make the family Erving. 
One was absorbed by the other; Bonshaw, I think, was the original 
Erving, and Drom the clan extinguished by the union. In the blazon 
of the arms, then, the right (holly or holleyn leaves) are the bearings 
of Bonshaw, to which also belongs the appropriate motto, " Sub sole 
sub umbra virescens ; " the spread eagle on the left is of the extinct 
clan Drom. I do not see that any of the race appeared in public lite 
previous to the time of Robert Bruce ; then an Erving distinguished 
as a warrior was the King's armor-bearer. 

I cannot say at what time my grandfather married, but conjecture 
in about 1720; his wife was Abigail Phillips, of a very old Welsh 
family, the head of which, Sir Richard Phillips, considered that his 
ancient baronetcy was more honorable than a peerage ; that therefore 
be refused, but his successor accepted and became Lord Milford. Of 
this marriage there were four sons and four daughters, viz. : 

John, who married into the English family Shirley. He died at 
Bath, 1816. 

George, who married, in 1768, Lucy Winslow, daughter of Isaac 
Wiuslow of Roxbury. She died in 1770, leaving one son. My father 

ntrod vGoO^lc 


took a second wife in 1775, Mary Macintosh Royal, daughter of 
Brigadier-General Royal of Medford. She died childless, 1786. My 
father died, 1806. 

James died unmarried, in the West Indies. 

William, a captain in the British army, quitted that service on the com- 
mencement of the Revolutionary War, and died unmarried at Koxbury. 

Elizabeth, your great-grandmother liowdoin. 

Mary, married to Colonel Scott of the English army, and Governor of 
Dominica and of Granada. 

Anne, married to Duncan Stewart of Ardsheil in the Highlands. 

Sarah, married to Colonel Waldo. 

Now, having brought this genealogical matter down to your own 
time, I will add, respecting some of the persons or families named, 
whatever anecdotical that may interest you. 

My uncle John Erving was a man of a lofty, dignified character, a 
perfect gentleman, loved and respected by all who knew him. His 
wife was a woman of superior mind, yet too proud of her Shirley 1 
descent, and having also a very bad temper, she estranged her husband 
from his two sons, John and Shirley ; these left their parents, and 
settled and died in the United States. 

My uncle William was also a perfect gentleman, and passionately 
devoted to his profession ; he was distinguished as a mathematician, and 
ranked very high in the English army as an engineer whilst aide-de- 
camp of the famous General Wolfe at the siege of Quebec. On the 
breaking out of the " American war," he refused to serve any longer, 
and retired on half pay." 

The Window family, of which was my mother, is the oldest of 
the Pilgrim race. Mary Chilton was the first woman who landed at 
Plymouth ; she was married to the brother of the first Governor 
Winslow, and produced the first child born in the Colony; from her are 
descended all the Win slows. 

My aunt Sarah was as pure a human character as ever existed, but 
she was so plain in person that grandfather prophesied that she would 
never "get a husband," — "too ugly." He was mistaken; she was mar- 
ried to Colonel Waldo, an excellent man and rich withal. I have seen 
lately, in an English paper, notice of the decease of two sisters Waldo, 
laids, excessively rich ; the notice adds that theirs was the " oldest 
ly in England." I sent that notice to my cousin Isaac Winslow of 
on for the use of the Waldos remaining amongst us. 
te Bowdoin, or Boudoin, family I suppose you know to have been 
its of Flanders, and that one of them during the " holy wars " 

lliirley, Lord Ferrers. 

le was the founder of the Erving Professorship of Chemistry at Harvard 

je, having been graduated there in 17-53. 

o„ r,a .Google 


became King of Jerusalem. 1 I suspect tfaat the origin of this name was 
" Beau Doyen;" if so, the race was French before Flemish. 

Duncan Stewart of Ardsheil : — the father of this gentleman (who 
married Anne Erving), was at the head of the clans of Appin and 
Ardsheil in the rebellion of 1745; that "outbreak" failing, all his 
estales were sequestered. When Lord Bute became prime minister 
of George III., the Scotch were taken into favor under the special 
patronage of that Scotch minister. Great numbers of his countrymen 
were provided with places, pensions, etc. Duncan Stewart was made 
Collector of New London. Duncan was in his person what the women 
call a "fine man," tall, well proportioned, and with regular features; 
his intellect was quite moderate, but its deficiency was amply com- 
pensated by an extraordinary proportion of native cunning, to which 
he added great persistence in subtle and obsequious cajolery ; it was 
thus that he built up his fortune. He effected more iu a few years 
by these means, than a man having any dignity of character could have 
effected during a long life with tenfold the capacity of Duncan.' When 
he took possession of his 'small post he lost no time in seeking "to 
better his fortune by marriage in this fine country" (said he), and for 
this, " came up " to Boston. There his Scotch birth procured intro- 
duction to the Scotch chief of Boston, with whose daughter Anne he 
immediately " fell in love." My grandfather, a clear-sighted man, who 
loved his money more than Duncan loved his daughter, treated the 
suitor as a needy Scotch fortune-hunter, and drove bim off ; but Dun- 
can was not to be rebutted. The poor girl's intellect was about on a 
par with his own; she became "love-sick," and the old gentleman, 
though a severe father, was sufficiently affectionate ; so he finally 
though most reluctantly, consented to the marriage. The Revolution 
drove Duncan from New to Old Loudon ; there boasting, like others 
under similar circumstances, of his loyalty and sufferings in " the 
royal cause," he obtained the collectorship of Bermuda. Still he kept 
on delving, digging, soliciting, and cajoling; so procured the transfer 
of the Bermuda post to bis second son (John), and finally the restitu- 
tion of the sequestered Highland estates to which he retired, and died 
there in his kilt (I think it is called) or " fillibeg," Laird of Ardsheil 
and Appin, — dignities now held by his eldest son Charles, an innocent, 
inoffensive, half-witted gentleman. 

Mary Macintosh Royal, my father's second wife, was a daughter 
of Brigadier- General Royal of Medford, who married a daughter of 
General Macintosh, a Scotchman in the service of Holland. He had 
large estates iu the Dutch Colony of Surinam. These he bequeathed 

1 There ia no evidence lo support this often repented legend. "Baudouin" 
has long been a common French name; and no efforts to discover the precise 
ancestry of Pierre Baudouin, who fled from Roclielle in 1085 and came to New 
England in 1687, have thus fur been successful. 

ntrod vGoO^lc 


in equal portions to his daughter Royal and another daughter who had 
married a Mr. Palmer. Mrs. Royal bequeathed her estate in equal 
portions to' my mother-in-law and her other daughter who was married 
to Sir William Pepperell. 

The Pepperell baronetcy : — This was of very honorable origin. In 
the " old French war," which terminated in the English conquest of 
Canada, their success was wholly due to the New England militia com- 
manded by General Pepperell of Saco. The English naval commander 
Warren nevertheless contrived to appropriate to his own use all the 
rich plunder of the captured city, in contempt of " Yankee" militia; 
the Government of England should have made him disgorge, but that 
operation is contrary to its buccaneer code. So they gave a baronetcy 
to Pepperell, and a service of silver plate, on the several pieces of 
which was engraved the acknowledgment of his services; and besides 
this, they honored him with a coat of arms from their heralds' office, 
with one of their pun mottoes, namely, " Peperi " I 

Old Sir William was as modest as.hrave, and he left the Englishman 
in quiet possession of bis plunder. This worthy roan was connected by 
marriage with the " Sparhawks," an old family " Mated " at Kittery near 
Portsmouth in New Hampshire ; and having no children of his own he 
took, under his care, by a sort of adoption, that one of the Kits who bad 
been named after him " William." This William Sparhawk was a fine 
lad, and grew up to be a very handsome man. He had received a good 
college education, and was polished in his mariners and address. These 
advantages, added to his near relationship to the old general, though he 
was not the eldest of the nephews, procured him the succession to 
the title and plate, with the name Pepperell and the motto " Peperi." 
This my mother-in-law's brother-in-law gave the lie to craniology ; be 
had a very large skull, but nearly empty ; he died some years ago. The 
title is extinct. " Sic transit gloria." (Mrs. Jarvis, wife of the patriot 
Dr. Jarvis, was a Sparhawk, sister of Sir William Pepperell.) 

My father and Uncle John emigrated to England, as you know. 
Some account of that emigration may be interesting to you. As to 
Uncle John, I can say but little ; he was, as I think, a radical royalist. 
But not so my father ; he was amongst those who in the com men cement 
of the " troubles " opposed the proceedings of the British Ministry, and 
on those matters was much in communion with the Adamses and others ; 
but when the dispute tended to separation, and when he saw that the 
opposition had resolved on armed resistance, he separated from them, 
for he considered a resort to force a " rebellion " not to be justified by 
the then position of affairs, and his opinion also was that such means of 
redress must fail ; that it was impossible for the " Colonies " to resist with 
success the power of Great Britain. The British Government, always 
precipitate and violent in its measures, had determined on the expe- 
dient of a Council by writ of" Mandamus," for the maintenance of the 

ntrod vGoO^lc 


" King's authority," — this Council to be composed of the most influential 
individuals in Boston. The then position of our family there recom- 
mended it specially to this royal favor. Thus three of its members — 
grandfather, father, and Uncle John — were made Councillors. My 
grandfather, whose first ambition was to preserve his wealth from all 
hazards, pleaded his advanced age on declining to accept of a seat at 
the board. His sons accepted, — John willingly, George not without 

General Washington soon disturbed these wise arrangements of the 
British Government, and compelled its troops to evacuate Boston. 
The " Loyalists " of course fled, and amongst them not a few needy ad- 
venturers under the name of " Loyalists," to proclaim their " sufferings " 
and obtain pensions in England, so that a sufficiency of transports to 
carry them away were scarcely to be had ; a ship, however, was spe- 
cially appointed for the use of the " Mandamus Council." The capture 
of Boston by the American " militia " bad totally changed my father's 
opinion as to what would be the result of the struggle, yet he was 
deeply eompromitted ; revocare gradum was impossible. When the 
ship was outside the lighthouse, and his colleagues were assembled on 
its deck discussing state affairs, and all fnll of confidence that they 
should soon be brought back in triumph, he said with great solemnity, 
" Gentlemen, not one of you will ever see that place again." Arrived 
at Halifax, they there expected the summons for their triumphal return ; 
my father forthwith took passage for, and with his wife and child arrived 
safely in, London. The other members of the Council finally followed 
his example. These gentlemen were individually consulted by the Sec- 
retary of State as to the prospect of affairs in the " Colonies." " Soil 
words suit best petitioner's interest." Thus the governmental views 
were flattered by the emigrants. My father's views, unfavorable to the 
Government, were frankly expressed ; consequently he was frowned on 
and no longer consulted ; so after remaining about a year in London, he 
retired to the country, where he resided about fourteen years, — till my 
grandfather's death. In the mean time his moderate income was derived 
from my mother-in-law's Surinam estate, out of which, however, he was 
able to cave enough for the expenses of his son's education, which occu- 
pied all his attention, for he hud no child (living) by his second wife. 

He remained always repenting of his error. Many a time and oft 
has he expressed to me his roost bitter regrets, and that his only conso- 
lation was that his errors had not deprived me of my rights as an Amer- 
ican. "I have committed," said he, "a great fault, bat you are not 
responsible. I brought you away a child (of five years) ; but remember 
that when yon are twenty-one you are freed from my authority as 
father and will then return to your native country." And so he sent 
me, and there commences my history, — not to be written. After the 

^Google ' 


death of my grandfather, my father wok a house in London, and there 
he died whilst I was Charge d' Affaires in Spain. He remained to the 
day of his death an impassioned American, as you may probably see in 
his correspondence with Governor Bowdoin. He carried this d^ep- 
rooted affection into the smallest circumstances. He imported salt fish, — 
as though it could not be purchased in "London, — and he gave regularly 
his salt-fish dinners ; he was delighted more with a hickory walking- 
stick that I gave to him than with a rich gold snuff-box which I pur- 
chased for him here in Paris. All his conversation was about the 
United States and their future prospects ; and when I was Consul and 
Agent of the United States in London, he was never so pleased as when 
I could pick up some intelligent American as guest at his table. You 
see, then, that my father had made me an American, though I had not 
been so of my own proper right and disposition. 

But what made me a democrat, which he was not? Jn affairs of 
government he was "liberal" because the temper of his mind was 
just, mild, and generous, but his political opinions tended to limited 
monarchy. What made the son, who adored the father, a radical 
democrat? Thus it was: ihe father had for system never to influ- 
ence the opinions, of his son on the two important points, — politics 
and religion ; he left his son perfectly at large to direct his own 
studies, never recommending even a course of reading. The many 
works of philosophy and history which his library contained were at 
my disposal, and I devoured them without restraint. Meditation on 
these and on what I observed of turpitude in the monarchical and 
aristocratic systems of government formed the basis of my creed ; a 
natural aptitude to the precision of mathematical reasoning, added 
■ to aa innate horror of all that is unjust, of all fraud, of oppression, 
powerful over weak, rich over poor, completed my political education, 
and I became, as I have always remained without the least devi- 
ation, democrat in the full sense of that term. Tndeed these politi- 
cal sentiments are not susceptible of change, for they are bound up 
with the moral ; they make a religion, in which no man can be more 
sincere and devout than I am. Yet I am not " Catholic " to the extent 
of supposing that all out of the " pale " are to be " damned." It is a 
good religion which makes an honest man. I have a perfect respect for 
conscience ; men may he perfectly virtuous and sincere though in error ; 
and again " to err is human," and which of us, however sincere, can 
positively assert that he is not in error. Certainly there ia as much 
honor and civic virtue amongst those of our citizens who are inimical to 
pure democracy, as is to be found amongst professed Democrats, — it 
may be more ; for it is not every one who says, " Lord, Lord," that is to 
be believed. I have learnt to distrust professions, and in fact have well 
known but few men whose political principles were religious. Apropos 

ntrod vGoO^lc 


of these truths, I will expose to you the why a certain pretender has, 
as you tell me, lately joined the O'Connell clamor, and why indeed in 
all things he is so ultra anti-anglican. A few years ago he visited 
England, and be was Dot received with the distinction which he mer- 
ited -, on the contrary, he had reason to be disgusted and offended. The 
book was the first discharge of bile ; Irish agitation is No. 2 ; and that 
we may not suffer by a more important No. 3, it were well that he be 
kept aloof from the white goal. There are few who are inconvertible 
by personal considerations ; the political profession of individuals is 
to be viewed in connection with their social positions. When a man 
like your grand-uncle Bowdoin is so placed in the community by the 
advantages of education, fortune, and family as to be an aristocrat, 
yet is a consistent and uniform democrat, then only my confidence is 

I have been more diffuse in these memoranda than I expected to be ; 
and worse, contrary to my expressed intention, I have unwittingly intro- 
duced too much of myself. I have been thus seduced by a peculiar feel- 
ing which you can hardly conceive of now ; you will when at my age. 
I write to a young man of great promise, who a few years ago (it seems 
to me but ten years) I had a baby in my arms ; and I write on tfie affairs 
of our common family, — these reminiscences of olden time, when being 
at your now age my hours glided so gleely (gleefully) in company witb 
your honored father and mother, the most excellent Mr. Bowdoin, and 
my aunt, your great-great-graud mother, the very paragon of matrons. 
Alas ! all the fair illusions of that happy period quickly passed, and 
gave place to the realities of general society with which my heart had 
no communion. When we can no longer look forward with hope, we 
are still happy if we can look back with satisfaction. However over- 
copious my notes, yet you may find in them hiati ; and if so, I will fill 
them up to the best of my power, and reply to whatever questions they 
may suggest to you. My narrations may also contain errors, but are 
free from fable, — in so far have the advantage of all histories, which 
apart from unavoidable errors are at least one third fable. 

My dear sir, yours very truly and sincerely, 

G. W. E. 

P. S. Herewith I enclose two curious little documents for your 
family archives, — one the tax-collector's hill for Province, Town, and 
County taxes paid by my father in 1770; and the other a receipt for 
5. 2. paid by my grandmother "for the nursing her son George" in the 
year 1739. 

ntrod vGoO^lc 


The first quarter of tbia century was a period of great interest and 
activity in our international relations. For a part of .the time Napoleon 
was in (he zenith of his power and conquests. His ambitious projects 
for himself and family were colossal, and he aimed at nothing less than 
the subordination of Europe and the Mediterranean countries to bis 
personal rule. As he found leisure or means at his command, and 
when more immediate designs upon Russia, Austria, Germany, and 
England were not so urgent or feasible in their execution, he sought, 
by combination of arms and intrigue, to attach the Peninsula to his 
dominion and to establish his brother Joseph upon the throne. 

Spain Jiad wealthy possessions on the American continent, and was 
our neighbor not for friendly intercourse but for selfish and hostile ends. 
Her pride and vanity aod procrastination complicated and embarrassed 
serious questions, and aggravated minor ones into formidable inter- 
national disputes. In 1793, Washington in a message spoke of the 
" restitution of property escaping into the territories of each other, the 
mutual exchange of fugitives from justice, and the mutual interferences 
of the Indians lying between us." Originally the nominal possessions 
of the Spanish Crown had touched, as was claimed, the territory of 
Russia on the Pacific coast of North America ; and in the question of 
the limits of territories between Great Britain and the United States, 
which came so near involving the two nations in a war, the claim of 
Spain to what we succeeded to by our purchase of Louisiana entered 
not inconsiderably into the contention. 1 The acquisition of Louisiana 
left unsettled the eastern boundary, and the heritage was a diplomatic 
dispute for twenty years. The navigation of the Mississippi created 
and prolonged an angry controversy. The acquisition of Florida, in 
itself and in its connected questions, was constantly a matter of argu- 
ment, crimination, and negotiation. Spoliations upon American com- 
merce, violations of strict neutrality in allowing Great Britain to 
occupy Florida as a base of military movements and in failing to 

' In the Instructions to Mr. Erving, May 30, 1816, the Secretary of State 
was careful to have avoided, in any adjustment of boundaries with Spain, what- 
ever " might affect our claims on Columbia River and on the Pacific." Mr. 
Jefferson, who purchased Louisiana, did not claim that it extended west of the 
Rocky Mountains. He said, " To the waters of the Pacific we can found no 
claim in light of Louisiana." 

ntrod vGoO^lc 


control the Indians from hostile aggressions upon the States, illegal 
seizures and condemnation of American vessels in and Dear the waters 
of the Mediterranean, furnished Bubject and occasion for numerous 
diplomatic notes and despatches. 

During the years mentioned and a few anterior there were most 
delicate and difficult questions growing out of the conduct of the 
Spanish Ministers in Washington, — GardoquiD, Irujo, and Onis, — who 
iu their assumptions of superiority forgot their obligations to the coun- 
try to which they were accredited, and conspired to produce disaffection 
in, and one of them the dismemberment of, the Republic. These 
ministerial imbroglios constitute a romantic chapter in our history ; 
and the learned discussions they engendered, disagreeable and menacing 
at the time, have resulted in settling some important questions as to the 
relations which foreign ministers sustain to the government to which 
they are accredited. In Dr. Wharton's "■ Digest of International Law," 
a treasury of information and wise discussion, can be found a detail of 
the facts connected with these unpleasantnesses. 

This period was contemporaneous with the Alger ine War. Our 
relations with the Barbary Powers gave much trouble until Decatur 
taught them and Europe to respect our rights at sea. 

In the formative epoch from 1776 to 1820, when the United States 
were slowly, in the face of physical and moral obstacles, establishing 
their independence and their co-equality among nations, the Govern- 
ment was fortunate iu its foreign representatives. This was true 
generally in Europe, especially in Spaiu. The labors of these men, 
unheralded and unrecorded except iu the unread archives of the State 
Department, have never been properly appreciated. In the erection 
of monuments and the national recognition of benefactors, the couutry 
has not been quick to recognize the grand and beneficial achievements 
of these remote and quiet laborers. The Government had during these 
eventful years the useful services in Spain of John Jay, William 
Short, William Carmichael, David Humphreys, Thomas Pinckney, 
Charles Pinkney, James Monroe, and George W. Erving. 

The object of this communication is to give some account of the 
diplomatic services of George William Erving. The first post offered 
to him was that of Charge d' Affaires in Portugal. On July 22, 1804, 
President Jefferson asked him to take the agency of our affairs, or the 
consulate, in Tunis. These he was constrained to decline on account 
of duties to his father, far advanced in life and insulated in some de- 
gree in London by reason of his decided loyalty to the United States. 
These proffers were made because of the efficiency and ability he had 
shown as agent in London for managing claims and appeals, under the 
treaty "for the relief of seamen," in the High Court of Admiralty and 
before the r Board of Commissioners. Jefferson, to whom he was intro- 
duced by letter from Samuel Adams, and Madison, to whom he was 

: ,t-od .GoO^lc 


presented by Governor Monroe in Richmond, so confided in him that, 
despite the resignations, he was, on Nov. 22, 1804, without solici- 
tation, appointed Secretary to the Legation at Madrid. He promptly 
proceeded from Loudon to his post, and began a career marked by 
most beneficial services to his country. In the absence of his chief, 
Hon. James Bowdoin, his cousin, who never reached Madrid, the ap- 
pointment as Secretary resulted in Erving's becoming and continuing 
Charge d' Affaires. The Instructions to Bowdoin were repeated to 
Erving. He was to look after the spoliations of Spanish cruisers, and 
considering the manner in which the mission of Monroe and Piukney 
terminated, — the " obstinate refusal to meet reasonable overtures " and 
the posture of relations between the two countries, — he was specially 
charged to take no steps towards their revival, but also not to conceal 
the cause of the reserve. He was to observe the ordinary civilities 
incident to a state of peace, and to be specially watchful of Spanish 
cruisers and of the rights of American citizens. The serious condi- 
tion of affairs when Erving became the sole representative of our 
country at Madrid may be inferred from the remarks made by Monroe, 
Secretary of State, in 1811, in an unofficial talk with Sefior Bernabue, 
the Spanish consul. Mr. Monroe affirmed that authentic documents 
existed in the Department of State which showed that Spanish Ministers 
in Washington had sought to excite discontent, had suggested meaus 
for, and by intrigues had endeavored to promote, the dismemberment 
of the Republic, and that spoliations on American commerce had never 
been adjusted, notwithstanding a convention between the two countries 
had provided therefor. 

The arrival of Erving in Madrid occurred at a time of much agitation. 
The great naval battle of Trafalgar had been fought the year before. 
In 1806 there was open discord in the royal family. The feuds io tbe 
household were matters of common notoriety, and caused embarrassment 
in political circles. The first visible symptom of impending convulsion 
was the arrest of Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias, by order of his father, 
Charles IV. The breach was caused by a secret application of the 
Prince to Bonaparte, but he was released on mentioning the names of 
his advisers. Manuel Godoy, Prince of Peace, a favorite of the Queen, 
was suspected of having most ambitious schemes in alliance with Na- 
poleon. Erving says, in a letter to Madison, August 10, 1807, that 
the Emperor of France made an offer of the electorate of Hanover to 
Godoy, for which, over and above the troops furnished, he paid a con- 
siderable sum of money out of his own funds. The results of the war 
made necessary another disposition of the territory, and the Prince was 
told that he should have provision made for him elsewhere ; but believ- 
ing that imperial promises were made only to deceive him, " he was 
furious." Popular indignation was strong against the reigning sov- 
ereign, and he, the Queen, and Godoy projected an escape to some of 

ntrod vGoO^lc 


the dependencies in America ; but their departure was frustrated by 
the friends of Ferdinand. Erving cultivated pleasant relations with the 
" power behind the throne," and had several unofficial communications 
with him in reference to the wishes of the United States. He speaks 
well of Godoy in his administration of public affairs, and characterizes 
him as a " perfect courtier " and an " adept politician." 

This strange man, born at Badajoz in 1768, had a marvellous history. 
Some of our romance writers would Deed little invention to take the 
incidents of his checkered career and weave them into a thrilling story. 
Ford, in bis unique book on Spain, the piquancy and freshness of 
which have been emasculated in the later editions of Murray's Hand- 
book, indulges freely his His pa no -and -Franco- phobia, and speaks of 
Godoy as "a toady," Charles IV.'s" wife's minion," "vile tool of Bona- 
parte," "impoverishing and bartering away the kingdom," "stipulating 
only, mean to the last, for filthy lucre and pensions." In 1808, at 
Aranjuez, in order to save Godoy, the object of search and vengeance 
on the part of soldiers and mob, Charles IV. abdicated in favor of 
Ferdinand VII., who arrived iu Madrid on the 23d of March. On the 
same day entered the city Achille Murat, — the French having invaded 
Spain and pushed their conquests and occupation as far as the capital. 
Murat had no purpose, under instructions from his imperial brother- 
law, to give more than the faintest semblance of acquiescence in 
claims of Ferdinand, and soon shoved him aside as a useless supernu- 
merary. 'He arrogated the. Presidency of the Supreme Junta of Spain 
and the weak and timid Ferdinand, influenced by the threats or prom- 
ises of Napoleon, ingloriously left the country and joined the remainder 
of the royal family at Bayonne, where he soon ceded to Napoleon all 
his rights to the Spanish Crown, and afterwards importuned him for 
a princess of the Imperial family. 1 In June, Napoleon transferred 
these rights to his brother Joseph, to whom Ferdinand obsequiously 
sent his felicitations on his victories over the Spanish armies, whom be 
called '■ the rebel subjects of Joseph." Joseph sent an address to the 
Spanish nation, and soon followed to Madrid, where on the 25th June 
he was proclaimed king. A few days prior to the proclamation the 
houses of the foreign ministers were illuminated, the compliment 
having been invited by the usual notification. None of the ministers, 
however, received credentials to Joseph, and in a month or two he was 
obliged to fly and Madrid was evacuated by the French. Joseph's 
head-quarters continually shifted. The proverbial loyalty of Spaniards 
to the throne was fully tested, and the absent and contemptible sovereign 
was proclaimed king with pomp and ceremony and illuminations and 
bull-fights. The country was governed in a very irregular manner, — 
the provinces by Juntas and the nation by a Supreme Junta, which 

1 Edinburgh Review, February, 1815, p. 605, 

ntrod vGoO^lc 


moved the seat of authority according to the exigencies of war, the 
advance or the receding of the army of invasion. Subsequently, in 
the winter, the French reoccupied Madrid, and Joseph also reappeared. 

It would be foreign to the purpose of this sketch to trace the military 
movements in the Peninsula, large materials for which exist iu Mr. 
Erviug's minute and interesting despatches, or the fugitive and change- 
able governments in Spain, or the difficulties of residence and trans- 
portation which befell our faithful representative in his efforts to be 
" near" the seat of authority and to avail himself of the whims and 
caprices and necessities of the Ministry, in order to adjust pending dis- 
putes, or to seize an opportune moment for acquiring Florida. 

In 1809, April 14, Erving obtained from the migratory Supreme 
Junta an order for the release of American vessels detained at Algeciras, 
the port near Gibraltar; and a month later he was successfully remon- 
strating against the British search of American vessels and imprison- 
ment of American seamen in the harbor of Cadiz. Commanders of 
British men of war claimed the right to board any merchant vessel 
and seize and carry off any British subjects liable to military duty ; as 
is well known, this claim of the Right of Search and Impressment 
led to the War of 1812 for Free Trade and Sailors' Rights. 

En execution of his grasping continental policy, Napoleon sought to 
cripple Great Britain by his famous Berlin and Milan Decrees, which 
declared Great Britain to be in a state of blockade, prohibited all 
intercourse with her, and pronounced all goods of British origin to be 
lawful prize. The Government of Great Britain retaliated by the first 
Orders in Council, in 1807, which prohibited all trade with France and 
her European possessions which did not pass through England, and iu 
1809 by another series, which revived "underhand and in detail," as 
said the " Edinburgh Review," the monopoly of 1807. These belliger- 
ent acts affected all neutral nations, nearly annihilated all neutral trade, 
and were particularly harmful to the growing trade of the United States. 
Our Embargo Act of 1807-1808, coerced by the European measures 
so hostile to our shipping and commerce, caused complaints in Spain, 
especially as enforced against Florida. Erving successfully replied to 
Cevallos, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, that the United 
States could not discriminate in favor of Spain, nor show partiality to 
her, especially as Spain herself had issued decrees similar to those of 
Berlin and Milan, and had sustained the policy which necessitated our 
defensive and retaliatory measures. 

For a portion of this time the relation of Erving to the Spanish 
Government was one of peculiar delicacy and of much personal em- 
barrassment, and much of bis intercourse was necessarily informal and 
unofficial. Chevalier Onis, the Spanish Representative in Washington, 
demanded to be received officially, — the recognition of the United 
States being very important to his struggling country, — but our Gov- 

ntrod vGoO^lc 

t would not deviate from its deliberate purpose to avoid every 
act whatever which might have a tendency to afford to either of the 
belligerents even a pretext of complaint. While the possession of the 
sovereignty was in doubt, the President refused to recognize prema- 
turely either claimant, Ferdinand or Joseph. Mr. Erving exercised 
most scrupulous caution not to commit himself or his Government, 
and at the same lime the utmost tact and diligence iu watching for 
and guarding the interests of American commerce and citizens. 

Early in February, 1810, the French occupied points around Cadiz 
and besieged the neighboring Isle de Leou, which was at that time the 
seat of Government. A pacific proposition from Joseph, then at Se- 
ville, to the city of Cadiz was indignantly rejected, and he was bluntly 
informed that Cadiz acknowledged no king but Ferdinand. The Su- 
preme Junta, having to disperse, appointed a Council of Regency of five 
members. It is characteristic of Spanish character to hold on in an 
unequal contest. Defeats and disasters do not subdue. When all 
seems lost, a display of superhuman courage and the employment of 
means apparently the most inadequate revive hopes and expel or 
cripple invaders. In one of his despatches to Secretary Robert Smith, 
written in 1809, Erving bears testimony to what he had observed. 
Speaking of the Supreme Junta and of the obstinacy of the contest, 
he refers to their unquestioned patriotism, indefatigable zeal, undaunted 
firmness in the midst of most pressing dangers, individual disinter- 
estedness, vast labors under difficult circumstances, struggling without 
despair of the public cause against the disadvantages of its own feeble 
texture, the impossibility of bringing into operation interior resources 
of the country, insufficiency of those from abroad, vigor of the enemy 
without, activity of intrigue and treason within, the disorganization and 
dispersion of armies, the total defection of allies on one side and the 
total subjugation on the other. 

While this contest was waging and all Spain seemed to be occupied 
by hostile forces and there was a time " of terror and confusion," Mr. 
Erving, writing from au American vessel in the harbor of Cadiz, said 
the Government would probably excuse his retiring from his post. 
The Secretary of State, Nov. 1, 1809, had written, " Whether the 
interest or the honor of the United States may require you to remain 
or to withdraw, is a question to be submitted to your sound discretion, 
to be exercised according to circumstances," after the despatches of 
Onis should reach the Supreme Junta. That his departure might not 
be considered "abrupt, precipitate, or clandestine," Mr. Erving spoke 
on the streets of Cadiz and to prominent persons of bis intention ; and 
that he might profit by any reverse in the current of affairs he went 
on board an English ship and sailed to Gibraltar. The Spanish and 
English being driven from their stronghold and the Government of 

:<,*.-«! vGoO^lc 


the Regency haying been removed to Cadiz, Mr. Erving felt there was 
no sufficient reason for remaining longer, and so he returned to Amer- 
ica by way of London, reaching New York on August 1, 1810. 

Wellington's victory at Salamanca, in 1812, drove Soult out of Se- 
ville and Joseph out of Madrid, and on August 14 Madrid surrendered 
to the Iron Duke. 

The Government did not permit Erving to enjoy bis leisure very 
long. Needing his diplomatic experience and ability, the President, 
on Jan. 5, 1812, appointed him a special Minister to Copenhagen, 
charged with the subject of spoliations committed under the Danish flag 
on the commerce of the United States. Having had his audience on 
June 5j he entered at ouce, on the 6th, 7th, and 8th, in medias res, asking 
a settlement of pending questions, and on the 23d he reports that since 
his arrival the depredations of the Danish privateers had been discon- 
tinued. During his residence he was active in the protection of Amer- 
ican commerce and in securing the .release of captured vessels. The 
Napoleonic wars unsettled all public law and apparently legalized all 
violations of neutral rights. In a despatch of Feb. 12, 1813, Erving 
reports with grave satisfaction, " I hope to make it evident (hat our 
Government has afforded as effectual and complete protection to com- 
merce during the last year, as it is possible for neutral commerce in 
these times to receive." He took leave May 12, 1813, having success- 
fully finished within eleven months the business for which he was 

In 1814 the French under the combined assaults of Spain and Eng- 
land bad suffered such reverses that Ferdinand was able to return to 
bis native country and begin his tyrannical reign. Six years of suf- 
fering and losses caused by the war covering the whole area of the Pe- 
ninsula were not easy to repair. Exile and other misfortunes ought to 
have taught some lessons of wisdom, but Ferdinand was an accentuated 
Bourbon and utterly nnteacbable. Moderate measures initiated the re- 
turn, but the ill-fitting mask was soon discarded and the trne character 
of the despot was made manifest. The arrest and imprisonment of many 
men of prominence consolidated the authority and power of the King. 
The potent influence of the clergy was invoked in his behalf, and 
readily obtained. The Constitution of 1812 was ( trampled under foot. 
Freedom of the press was abolished. 

Anthony Morris, of Pennsylvania, a worthy citizen who had been 
President of the State Senate, having been empowered as Special 
Agent in Madrid to make and receive informal communications, bad 
an interview with the Minister for Foreign Affairs in reference to the 
landing of British troops in Florida, thus violating the neutrality of 
Spain and giving practical aid to our enemy during war. He was 
treated, according to his own statement, with "cold contempt." 



The President, learning during the recess of the Senate lhat the 
Government of Spain was re-established and that Ferdinand was 
seated on the throne with the consent of the nation, and ever anxious 
to promote a good understanding between the two countries, immedi- 
ately decided on sending a full Minister to Spain. He made choice of 
Erving, who, after voluntarily closing his mission in Copenhagen, was 
travelling in the south of Europe, and on August 11, 1814, commis- 
sioned him as Minister Plenipotentiary to a country where he had served 
so faithfully and honorably. This was a just recognition of skill, fidel- 
ity, and ability. The original letter, yellow and dingy, written partly 
in cipher, signed "J. Monroe," Secretary of State, enclosing the com- 
mission, is still preserved in the archives of the Legation at Madrid. 

Such were the irritations growing out of the past, that the passports 
asked for were refused, and it was near two years before Erving was 
received. During the interval Mr. Erving wrote, on March 16, 1815, 
that Anthony Morris, on the refusal of the Spanish Government to re- 
ceive the regularly accredited minister, had flattered himself that he 
could be promoted to the post, and so was privy to personal objections to 
Erving, based on his intimacy and negotiations with the King of Naples 
— Achilla Murat — when he was lieutenant of Napoleon at Madrid. 
As afterwards became manifest, the nomination was specially accept- 
able to Ferdinand, because when Erving was Charge he adhered to 
the popular cause (which was Ferdinand's) during the French invasion 
under Napoleon. 

The Spanish Minister at Washington, Sefior Luis de Onis, had so 
offended our Government by his " intrigues and turbulence " that all 
official communication with him had ceased. In 1811 President Madi- 
son transmitted to (he Senate and House an intercepted letter of Onis, 
in which he spoke " of the servile meanness and adulation of the Ad- 
ministration in relation to their oracle, Bonaparte," and of the little hope 
of obtaining anything favorable " but by energy, by force, and by chas- 
tisement." Subsequent events had not mollified the unpleasantness, 
rather aggravated it, and it was unnecessary for Erving to proceed to 
his post. In fact, the refusal of the application for safe conduct was tan- 
tamount to a rejection. On Jan. 17, 1815, the Secretary of State, in a 
direct communication .to Cevallos, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in- 
formed him of the desire of the United States to reopen the diplomatic 
relations which had been suspended during the struggle for the Spanish 
Monarchy. The territory of Spain being then in the possession of 
nearly equal contending armies, victory sometimes favoring each and the 
ultimate issue altogether precarious, the United States could not under- 
take to decide and refused to interfere between the competitors or 
make itself a party to the disputes respecting the Spanish Monarchy. 
The situation was now different; and serious as were the objections to 

ntrod vGoO^lc 


Ouis, " not bred in doctrines of political purity, and scarcely capable of 
believing in the total absence of those corrupt practices so familiar to 
him," the President had notwithstanding received informal communi- 
cations from him. It being understood that Ferdinand desired that 
Onis should be received, the Government was willing, as an act of 
courtesy to bis Government, to forego its objections and acknowledge 
him as the Spanish Minister. As Mr. Erving had been practically re- 
jected, explanations of the condition of affairs and of the mind of the 
President could not be made ; but now the President hoped that Mr. 
Erving would be received and mutual diplomatic intercourse be restored. 
To this request Anthony Morris was authorized by the Spanish Gov- 
ernment to reply that there never bad been any personal objection to 
Mr. Erving, and passports would be regularly issued to him. 

Mr. Erving, knowing that he would not be received until Onis was, 
had returned to America, and on March 11, 1816, the Secretary of 
State wrote, " Yon will set out in discharge of the duties of your mission 
to Spain as soon after the receipt of this letter as circumstances will 
permit." The restoration of intercourse furnished, it was thought, a 
favorable opportunity for the settlement of every difference with that 
power. The former grievances remained unsettled; and because of the 
strained relations of the long European conflict new ones had been 
added. The spoliations on American commerce, the injuries which 
grew out of the suppression of the right of deposit at New Orleans, 
the settlement on just principles of the boundaries of Louisiana, and the 
acquisition of Florida, were the important matters intrusted to the new 
Envoy. On his arrival iu Madrid an audience was not promptly given 
as he had been led to expect, and this drew from him an earnest and 
dignified letter of remonstrance which secured his reception. 

In August, 1818, the Spanish Government suspended all negotiations 
with our Minister, in consequence of General Jackson's military opera- 
tions in Florida, and severe charges were made against the American 
Government. It was not until the next year that Erving was able to 
place before the Spanish Minister the full text of a despatch of John 
Quincy Adams sustaining General Jackson and casting the entire blame 
on Spain. While many occasions have arisen in our history for the 
vindication of the country from aspersions and for the assertion of the 
great principles of international law as applicable to a Republic, it may 
well be doubted whether the archives of the State Department contain 
a document more lucid in its statement of facts, more overwhelming in 
logic, more exalted iu itB principles, or breathing a loftier and more de- 
fiant tone of manly, indignant, large-souled patriotism, than this letter 
of Mr. Adams. 

During Mr. Erving's ministry occurred that singular but profitable 
episode in our national life, known as the Algerine War. The Barbary 

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States in North Africa for many years pursued a system of brigandage 
and semi-piracy, and were regular freebooters on the sea. Singularly, 
the riparian Slates of the Mediterranean and other European nations, 
from having as much on their hands as they could well manage, yielded 
to these insults and exactions. Treaties even were negotiated recogniz- 
ing the right to tribute money. 1 One was concluded in 1795 with the 
United States, and in the course of years the demands of the Algerine 
Government became so impudent and unreasonable that it was necessary 
to resist them. Vessels of the United States were detained for the 
payment of about $21,600, due annually in naval stores under the 
treaty, and for certain other sums resting on usage, as $20,000 on 
presentation of a Consul, $17,000 of biennial presents to the officers 
of the Government, and some incidental and contingent presents for 
various other things. The Dey of Algiers, grown insolent by his suc- 
cessful levies of blackmail, committed outrages on American and other 
consuls, seized vessels as prizes, and condemned captives to slavery, 
In 1815, " the moment we had brought to an honorable conclusion our 
war with a nation the most powerful in Europe on the seas," a squad- 
ron, under command of Commodore Decatur, was detached from our 
naval force, and sent to the Mediterranean to take satisfaction for the 
wrongs which Algiers had done to us. The Commodore sought, found, 
and attacked the Algerine fleet and made prize of two ships, one of 
them the principal ship commanded by the Admiral. This brilliant 
victory forced a treaty of peace, concluded by Decatur and Shaler, the 
American Consul -General at Algiers, on the one side, and the Dey of 
Algiers on the other. In this treaty all pretensions to tribute, under 
any name or form, were relinquished. The gallant Commodore required 
the negotiations to be conducted on board the American fleet, and 
refused to suspend hostilities even while the negotiations were pending. 
To a petition for a truce of three hours to deliberate on the terms the 
laconic response was, " Not a minute." In three hours, although the 
distance from the vessel to the shore was five miles, the treaty was re- 
turned signed, and the same boat brought the liberated prisoners. A 
happy instance, worthy of imitation, of relaxation of the Moorish habit 
of procrastination ! 

In 1816 the Dey, under the flimsy pretext that the stipulations of 
the treaty had not been complied with, addressed a letter to Mr. Madi- 

1 On Feb. 5, 1802, Mr. Erving writes privately from London to Mr. Madison : 
" Mr. King, I presume, has informed you that the present of jewels, &c, has been 
sent to the Bey of Tunis ; the gun* and pistols are preparing, the stocks studded 
with diamonds accordinq la his direction. Knowing that this is the last tributahe 
will receive, I may venture to say I was never more mortified than when by Mr. 
King's desire I went to sec these presents put up and despatched, or felt greater 
contempt for that miserable acquiescence in European policy which first induced 
ua to pay these robbers." 

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son, declaring the treaty annulled and presenting the alternative of war 
or the revival of the former treaty with its annual tribute. The Depart- 
ment found the Arabic missive a puzzle, and much time elapsed before 
a translation could be obtained. It was finally put into English, and a 
copy of it and the reply were forwarded to the Legation at Madrid. 
I am not violating instructions as to secrecy of archives by inserting 
as a diplomatic curiosity a copy of the letter, which I discovered in a 
mass of unbound and unclassified letters : — 

With the aid and assistance of Divinity and in the reign of our Sover- 
eign, the Asylum of the World, powerful and Great Monarch, transactor 
of all good actions, the best of men, the shadow of God, Director of the 
good order, King of Kings, Supreme Ruler of the World, Emperor of the 
Earth, Emulator of Alexander the Great, possessor of great forces, sov- 
ereign of the two Worlds and of the Seas, King of Arabia and Persia, 
Emperor, Son of an Emperor and Conqueror, Mali mood han (may God end 
his life with prosperity and his reign be everlasting and glorious) His hum- 
ble and obedient Servant actual Sovereign, Governor and Chief of Algiers, 
submitted forever to the orders of his Imperial Majesty's Noble Throne, 
Omer Pasha (may his government be happy and prosperous). 

To His Majesty the Emperor of America, its adjacent and depending 
provinces and Coasts, and wherever his government may extend, our noble 
friend, the support of Kings of the Nations of Jesus, the Pillar of all Chris- 
tian Sovereigns, the most glorious amongst the Princes, elected amongst 
many Lords and Nobles, the happy, the great, the amiable, James Madi- 
son Emperor of America (may his reign be happy and glorious, and his 
life long and prosperous) wishing him long possession of the Seat of his 
blessed Throne, and long life and health, Amen. Hoping that your health 
is in good state I inform you that mine is excellent (thanks to the Supreme 
Being) constantly addressing my humble prayers to the Almighty for your 

After many years have elapsed, you have at last sent a Squadron Com- 
manded by Admiral Decatur (your most humble servant) for the purpose 
of treating of peace with us ; I received the letter of which he was the 
bearer and understood its contents ; the enmity which existed between us 
having been extinguished, you desired to make peace as Fiance and Eng- 
land have done. Immediately after the arrival of your Squadron in our 
harbour I sent my answer to your Servant the Admiral through the medium 
of the Swedish Consul, whose proposals I was disposed to agree to on con- 
dition that our frigate and Sloop of War, taken by you, should be restored 
to ug and brought back to Algiers; on these same Conditions we would 
sign peace according to your wishes and request: our answer having thus 
been explained to your Servant the Admiral by the Swedish Consul he 
agreed to treat with us on the above mentioned conditions ; but having 
afterwards insisted upon the restitution of all American Citizens as well as 
upon a certain sum of money for several Merchant Vessels made prizes by 
us and of every other object belonging to the Americans, We did not hesi- 

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tate a moment to comply with his wishes and in consequence of which we 
have restored to the said Admiral (your Servant) all that he demanded 
from us - in the meantime the said Admiral having given his word to send 
back our two Ships of War and not having performed his promise, he has 
thus violated the faithful articles of peace which were signed between us, 
and bj so doing a new treaty must be made. 

I inform you therefore that a Treaty of peace having been signed 
between America and us during the reign of Hassan Pasha twenty years 
past I propose to renew the said Treaty on the same basis specified in it 
and if you agree to it our friendship will be solid and lasting. 

I intended to he on the highest terms of amity with our friends the 
Americans than ever before, being the first Nation with which I made 
peace, but as they have not been able to put into execution our present 
Treaty, it appears necessary for us to treat on the above mentioned condi- 
tions. We hope with the assistance of God that you will answer this our 
letter immediately after you shall have a perfect knowledge of its contents, 
if you agree (according to our request) to the conditions specified in the 
said Treaty, please to send us an early answer, if on the contrary you are 
not satisfied with my propositions, you will act against the sacred duty of 
men and against the laws of Nations, requesting only that you will have 
the goodness to remove your Consul as soon as possible, assuring you it will 
be very agreeable to us. 

These being our last words to you We pray God to keep you in his holy 

Written in the year of Hegira 1231 the 20 day of the month Dyemaziel 
evvel — corresponding to A. r>. 1816 April 24. 
Signed in our well guarded City of Algiers. 

Signed Omar Son of Moohammed 

Conqueror and Great. 1 

1 An analogous but inferior specimen of royal grandiloquence and titular 
display may be Been in the commission issued to Gardonui in 1734. It begins 
thus : " Don Carlos by ihe grace of God King of Castile, of Leon, of Arragon, 
of tlie two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Navarre, of Granada, of Toledo, of Valencia, 
of Galicia, of Majorca, of Seville, of Sardinia, of Cordova, of Corsica, of Murcia, 
of Jaen, of the East and West Indies Islands and Terra Firma, of the Ocean sea, 
Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, of Brabant and Milan, Count of Aps- 
burg, of Flanders, Tirol and Barcelona, Lord of Biscay, of Molina, &c." 

One of the complaints of the Dey was that the bounty was paid in money 
instead of certain naval stores, etc., of which he was in need. English history 
furnishes us an example of a complaint exactly the reverse. When Catherine of 
Braganza, the Infanta of Portugal, was betrothed in 1662 to Charles II., her 
dowry, among other things, was to consist of the territory of Tangier and 
£500,000 sterling, ready money. The Earl of Sandwich was despatched with 
a fleet to take possession of Tangier and, on his return, to conduct the Queen to 
England. The Queen Mother, unable to pay more than one half of her daugh- 
ter's portion, pledged herself to pay the residue within the year. The Ambas- 
sador, reluctantly consenting to receive the moiety, was soon confounded and 
mortified by the discovery that the sum, instead of being paid in ready money, 
was delivered in Ihe form of bags of sugar, spices, and other merchandise. 

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The President to this gasconade replied in a dignified manner, saying 
that the United States preferred war to' tribute, and demanding the 
observance of the late treaty which inhibited tribute and the enslave- 
ment of captives. " The United States, while they wish for war with 
no nation, will buy peace of none. It is a principle incorporated into 
the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is 
better than tribute." Decatur, " generous and brave," had promised, 
not as a stipulation of the treaty, but as " a compliment and a favor " 
to the Dey, to restore to Algerine officers the captured vessels " as 
they were," and to furnish an escort ; and he fulfilled his pledge by 
putting the vessel in the possession of an Algerine officer at Cartha- 
gena. The. frigate arrived at an early day at Algiers; but the Spanish 
Government alleged that the capture of the brig had taken place so 
near the Spanish shore as to be an unlawful prize, and detained it at 
Carthagena. The Dey pretended and insisted that the restoration 
was an essential part of the treaty. The Commodore, blunt and 
honest and just as he was brave, flatly contradicted the Dey. The 
Spanish Government, which might easily have prevented any disagree- 
ment, finally set at liberty the vessel, " as an act of comity to the 
Untied States," and, as Onis said, without any equivalent from Algiers 
and with a view to prevent any misunderstanding. Some controversy 
arose between Spain and the United States, in which Erving represented 
his Government with his usual energy, tact, and intelligence. The 
Instructions, May 30, 1816, explicit and full, required him to use his 
best endeavors for a satisfactory accommodation of the affair. Tbe 
Dey said he received the brig from Spain for a consideration, and 
demanded in consequence indemnity equal to her value and the ransom 
of the crew. This claim was " too unjust and absurd to admit of any 
discussion ; " and Instructions were accordingly issued to Commodore 
■ Chauncey " to protect our commerce from Algerine piracy," and to 
act in reference to such a state of things as the recommencement of 
hostilities by the Dey might create. 

From the beginning until the close of Mr. Erving's ministry in 
Spain, he never lost sight of his original Instructions. With an in- 
finity of smaller and more harassing matters pressing upon him, he 
nevertheless kept his eye steadily on the graver questions which he 
knew his Government to have most at heart. By all the means, per- 
sonal and official, which a Representative can properly use, by culti- 
vating pleasant social relations with members of the royal family, 
the various Governments and influential Spaniards, by a thorough 
acquaintance with the principles of international law and whatever of 
history or fact might bear on tbe subjects pending, by exhibition of 
sympathy with Spain in her heroic struggle for independence, by 
patience and cheerfulness and perseverance which no one can compre- 

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hend who has not had to deal with the pride, the obstinacy, the perverse 
and worrying procrastination' of a Spanish Government, he pursued 
the tenor of his way for fifteen years, until at last the great work was 
consummated and Florida became an integral portion of the American 
Union. From 1802 until 1818 a Convention for the adjustment of 
Claims was unratified by Spain, and when finally accepted Mr. Erving 
was quick to construe it as preliminary to a like adjustment of other 
claims, and as laying a foundation for an amicable and early settlement 
of the territorial questions then under discussion. In the April number, 
1888, of the " Magazine of American History," I have given a some- 
what minute detail of the negotiations connected with the acquisition 
of Florida, — a national event whose importance cannot be overesti- 
mated, — and I need not here repeat the narrative. John Qnincy 
Adams, in announcing John Forsyth as his successor, wrote to Mr. 
Erving : " Accept my congratulations upon the termination of a 
negotiation ... in which you have taken so distinguished a part." 
Dr. Francis Wharton says, in his " Digest of International Law " : 
"I ought to say that an examination of his (Erving's) communica- 
tions to this Government during his mission to Spain has impressed 
me with a conviction that to his sagacity and good sense our settlement 
with Spain in 1822 was largely due." The verdict of the impartial in- 
vestigator must be that the nation owes to none of her citizens a debt 
of gratitude larger and truer, for this increase of her territory and 
peaceable settlement of an irritating question, than to George William 

The health of Mr. Erving had been impaired by the treacherous cli- 
mate of Madrid and the laboriousness of bis duties. Long absence 
from home made atiention to his private affairs a necessity. He there- 
fore submitted repeated requests to have a successor appointed and to 
be allowed to return. On Nov. 28, 1818, John Q_. Adams wrote: 
" The President- has determined to nominal© a successor to your Mission, 
and has directed me to authorize you, as soon after the receipt of this 
letter as you shall judge expedient, with reference to the publick inter- 
est and as may suit your convenience, to take leave of the Court of 
Spain. . . . The critical state of our relations with Spain during the 
whole of the past year and the reluctance which the President could 
not but feel at permitting your faithful and valuable services to be 
withdrawn from the public affairs, has hitherto delayed his compli- 
ance with your desire. He directs me to assure you that the vigilance, 
firmness, zeal, and assiduity with which yon have conducted the affairs 
of the Mission have given him entire satisfaction and enhance his 
regret at the necessity under which you have found yourself of retiring 
from the public service." Mr. Erving took leave on April 29, 1819. 



It would not be in accordance with strict historical accuracy to allow 
this narration of Mr. Erving's resignation and of his connection with the 
acquisition of Florida to close here. In a letter written from Paris, 
Jan. 6, 1345, he says he "returned from Spain in a state of great 
irritation and mortification, not, as Mr. Adams has supposed, because 
the negotiation had been removed to Washington, but because in the 
course of it I had been treated with indignity ; because that when, 
under the full persuasion that I could obtain the Colorado (with desert) 
as limit, I asked for full powers, I was told that my powers were suffi- 
cient, as though powers to negotiate were powers to sign a treaty ; 
because I was instructed to go on negotiating for a limit west of the 
Sabine under the reinforced assurance that the Rio Bravo was the 
rightful boundary of Louisiana, whilst it bad been predetermined by 
President Monroe to cede all the territory in dispute, even to the 
Sabine ; because, though I had repeatedly informed the Government 
of all that related to the ' royal grants,' the treaty had been so made as 
not to exclude all those grants : these were my griefs, added to that 
total inattention of the Secretary to my repeated application for leave 
of absence, which forced my resignation. On all these matters I com- 
plained bitterly to the President, aud supported my complaints by a 
syllabus of the correspondence carefully extracted from the records in 
the Department of State." 

In 1844 the annexation of Texas was the pivotal issue of the "Pres- 
idential campaign," and provoked much excited discussion. General 
Jackson, having been furnished with a copy of Mr. Erving's syllabus, 
enforced by " verbal revelations," charged that the United States had 
lost important territory, when it was at its option to retain it, by taking 
the negotiation out of Mr. Erving's hands aud transferring it to Wash- 
ington. This greatly provoked John Quincy Adams, who, as Secretary 
of State, had concluded the negotiation on the part of our Government. 
In an address, made in Tremont Temple to the young men of Boston 
(which I heard, being at that time a student in Dane Law School), 
Mr. Adams made an acrimonious reply and defence of himself, going so 
far as to assail the character of Mr. Erving's deceased father. Mr. 
Adams sought, producing and reading from his diary, to vindicate him- 
self from the reproach of having inopportunely transferred the negotia- 
tion from Madrid to Washington, and charged Erving with having 
transcended his " powers and instructions," which "authorized him to 
accept of the Sabine as our ultimatum." He also affirmed that " the 
Spanish Government never did offer a line one inch to the westward of 
the Sabine." 

This is not the occasion tantas componere lites, and into the merits of 
the controversy I shall not enter. It is due to Mr. Erving to state 
that he published two able letters, Nov. 12, l844f and Jan. 6, 1845, 

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in which he conceded that the first transference of negotiations he 
advised because he found it impossible to advance one step in nego- 
tiation with Cevallos, " that most impracticable, inefficient, inapt, and 
indolent of all ministers." After the dismissal of Cevallos and the 
appointment of Pizarro, of which Air. Adams was notified, the negotia- 
tion was renewed at Madrid and subsequently transferred to Washing- 
ton. This re-transference was with Erving's consent, as explained in 
his despatches, because mainly of restriction upon his powers and 
" mystification " in the correspondence. It was not the transfer of the 
negotiations which ired him, or with which Mr. Adams was reproached, 
but that " he closed the negotiations at Washington on less favorable 
terms than might have been obtained at Madrid had he ordered the 
continuation of negotiations there." Mr. Erving insisted that he was 
prevented from making a better treaty by keeping from his hands the 
means of makiug it. He had contended for " the line of the Colorado " 
instead of the Sabine, as the " Rio Bravo del Norte had always been 
deemed by our Government to be the proper limit of Louisiana," and 
his confidence of success was based on " the disposition of the Spanish 
Government, under the influence of Pizarro, most favorable to the 
adjustment of the boundary question." It was on " an intimate ac- 
quaintance with the character of Pizarro, his conciliatory disposition, 
his frankness, and good faith," that Erving founded and adhered to the 
opinion that the limit of the Colorado might have been agreed to and 
ought to have been insisted upon. 

Mr. Erving was afterwards appointed to Constantinople, but declined 
to accept, as the Mission was of an inferior grade to what he had held 
in Denmark and in Spain. 

Erving was a graduate of Oxford, and a man of scholarly tastes and 
acquirements. His despatches are models of elegant composition, show- 
ing the thoroughly trained mind and large and accurate information. 
Some of them, if published, would be valuable contributions to history. 
Before the days of railways, steamboats, and telegraphs, and the mod- 
ern newspaper, it was the habit of diplomats to write full despatches, 
in which were minute accounts of military movements, of political 
changes, of social customs, of personal adventure, and even of court 
scandals. Mr. Erving was in the Peninsula at a most interesting 
period, and his descriptions of campaigns and estimates of men show 
the scholarly and industrious observer. 

Mr. Winthrop gives this testimony from President Madison : " I 
never bad a more capable and faithful Minister than Mr. Erving, nor 
one for whom I had a greater regard." 

Mr. Erving was not a warrior, nor an orator (although ambassadors 
were originally called orators), nor a popular author (although he wrote 
a learned aud useful book on the Basque Language, the Sphinx of 

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